Will the Courts Accept a Jury Duty Excuse Letter If You’re in a Pinch?

Sometimes, you or your employees’ personal responsibilities conflict with your business. For many small businesses, if you miss work or lose an employee for an extended period of time, there can be harmful effects on productivity in the workplace.

But if you or an employee are called in for jury duty, you might not have a choice when it comes to missed work. However, the courts do make some exceptions for very special situations. Learn about reasons the court might allow you to get out of jury duty and what information to include in a jury duty excuse letter.

About jury duty

Jury duty is when an individual is summoned to serve on a jury in either a federal or state or local court case. The court selects individuals to complete questionnaires to learn more about their qualifications. From there, individuals are randomly chosen for cases.

To qualify for jury duty service, an individual must be a U.S. citizen, be at least 18 years old, reside in the judicial district for one year, and understand English. Other qualifications include having never been convicted of a felony and having no disqualifying mental or physical condition.

According to National Public Radio, 32 million citizens are summoned each year for jury duty—however, only around eight million report for jury duty.

Individuals attempt to get out of jury duty for a variety of reasons, but the courts only accept some requests.

Reasons to write a jury duty excuse letter

Generally, the court makes its decision on a case-by-case basis, so there isn’t a standard letter to get out of jury duty. And, federal and state courts have different rules for accepting a getting out of jury duty letter. If you have a special circumstance that makes serving jury duty difficult at the time of the request, you must be honest when appealing to the court.

Before writing a letter to be excused from jury duty, understand some of these general reasons the courts may excuse you or your employees.

Federal courts

According to the United States Courts, the following groups might be excused from jury duty service:

  • People over 70 years old
  • People who have served on a federal jury within the past two years
  • People who serve as volunteer firefighters or members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew
  • People experiencing “undue hardship or extreme inconvenience”

If you fall under any of these categories, you can write a letter to the clerk of court. If you claim that you are experiencing undue hardship or extreme inconvenience, you need to explain what it is. For example, if serving jury duty would result in financial hardship, detail it in your letter.

In addition, federal courts do not allow members of the armed forces who are on active duty, members of fire and police departments, and public officers of federal, state, or local governments to serve on juries.

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State or local courts

Like federal jury duty, state and local jury duty excuses vary. And, each court also has different rules. Generally, you should detail financial, medical, work-related, and family issues if these will hinder your jury duty services.

Let’s take a look at Ohio jury duty laws. If you are called to serve on a jury in Ohio, you can be excused if your attendance will materially injure the public, a relative is dangerously ill or has recently died, you are a cloistered member of a religious organization, you would experience extreme physical or financial hardship, you are over 75 years old, or if you are a member of a recognized Amish sect.

You will need to check with your state to learn more about reasons why jurors may be excused.

Jury duty excuse letter from employer

You can write a letter to excuse an employee from jury duty if absolutely necessary. If you send a jury duty work excuse letter to the court on behalf of an employee, you need to explain how the employee’s absence would significantly affect your business and even lead to negative cash flow.

For some businesses, a jury duty summons simply comes at the wrong time. If you are in your busy season at work, you can’t afford to lose any of the hands on deck. If one of your employees receives a jury duty summons, you could write a jury duty letter from employer to the courts and explain that you are in your peak season. Then, you could ask that their jury duty responsibility be postponed until your busy season is over.

Keep in mind that writing a jury duty excuse letter does not guarantee your employee will get out of jury duty. It simply brings the problem to the court’s attention and asks that service be deferred.

Sample letter requesting excuse from jury duty

When writing your or your employee’s jury duty excuse letter, you must include basic information like the juror number, date, and your mailing address. You also need to include the clerk’s information.

Include detailed information about why you or your employee needs to be excused from serving jury duty.

Let’s say you received a jury duty summons. You do not have employees, and you would need to shut down your seasonal small business to serve. This would result in financial hardship, a setback in productivity, and an inconvenience to your customers. Your small business is closed during the winter, so you want to ask for a deferral until then. When writing your letter, describe in detail why you need a deferral and provide information about your business.

Jury duty leave

If one of your employees serves jury duty, you must give them time off. You cannot punish an employee serving jury duty by terminating or mistreating them in any way.

However, you might be wondering whether you are required to pay employees when they are away serving jury duty.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you are not required to pay employees serving jury duty. But, some states require that you give employees their regular wages while they are serving. Check with your state for more information.

Most courts provide some sort of compensation to individuals serving jury duty. However, many states have laws that do not require payment until the individual has served a certain amount of days.

If you are not required to pay employees while they are away on jury duty leave, you could decide to give employees paid jury duty leave as a benefit.

Keep track of employee time off with Patriot’s time and attendance software for small business. Get it as an add-on to our online payroll software to seamlessly pay employees. Try both for free today!

This article is updated from its original publication date of March 19, 2018.

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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